Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Their Lenses of Hope--"Born into Brothels"

"As an artist you are responsible to no one and to nothing, except to yourself and to the truth as you see it."

--from Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev

Even the most eternal of optimists would have a difficult time finding the silver lining in their lives. They are painfully poor, unwanted, and live under extremely inhumane conditions. Worst of all, they are born without so much of a chance of transcending these grim circumstances.

So who are they?

They are the children of Calcutta's brothels.

Often born into a long line of sex trade workers who were also sold into this desperate lifestyle, these young girls and boys just exist day-by-day, dreaming of the lives they could be living had the stars been aligned in their favour.

Maybe they would go to school and eventually become India's future doctors and lawyers. Maybe they would nurture their creative gifts to the fullest to become the great writers and artists of their time. Maybe they would one day earn enough money to rescue their families from this endless cycle of poverty. Maybe, just maybe....


Zana Briski was a woman with a vision.

After studying Visual Arts and Documentary Photography at both the University of Cambridge and New York's International Centre of Photography, Briski first travelled to India while pursuing a project on female infanticide. A few years later, she would return to the country with yet another trick up her sleeve.

Briski navigated through a world of pimps and drug dealers in order to capture the lives of Sonagachi's sex trade workers in her photography. But as she began to peel back the disturbing layers of Calcutta's red-light district, Briski found a source of both hope and despair in lives even more stigmatized than these brothel workers--their children.

From the time they woke up to the time they fell asleep, these little girls and boys worked. Whether it was making illegal sales for the family's underground liquor business, or playing the house maid where a hard slap and a barrage of drug-induced insults replaced a much-needed hug, these kids were painfully aware of their bleak fates.

And Briski knew she had to help.

While convincing the local boarding school to admit the children of brothel workers seemed like the equivalent of moving a mountain with one's bare hands, Briski decided to start off small. She would first, teach them the art of photography.

She gave these kids the power of sharing their world through their own eyes and this is what they saw:

**(all photos courtesy of Kids with Cameras)**

So Kids with Cameras was born.

Not only did Briski empower these children by encouraging them to learn more about themselves and the world around them, Shanti, Avijit, Gour, Kochi, Manik, Puja, Suchitra, and Tapasi, have started a movement in which children worldwide are being educated about the harsh realities of war, poverty, and sexual slavery through photography. As a result, children from marginalized communities in Cairo, Haiti, and Jerusalem have also contributed their own artistic visions as seen through their lenses of hope.

**If you would like to learn more, please visit the Kids with Cameras website. I would also encourage you to watch Briski's award-winning documentary that started it all, Born into Brothels.


The All Seeing Eye said...

You would like the UN would do soething about this... Then again what good has the UN really done except for feeding people?...

May said...

I'm going to check out that documentary, can't imagine being bred for such things.

Great post :)

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

all seeing eye...yes, I share your views on the UN and their ineffective programs!

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Thanks May! Yeah, definitely try to catch the film if you can, I'm sure you'll be just as moved as I was....

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